“Engage!” was the command provided each week by Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. So often intoned, it could be heard around water coolers everywhere back in the day.

Why? It spoke to hope. It was the promise of exploration, finding something new, our endless curiosity and a subtle message that we were along for the ride. Everyone loves adventure!

(If you weren’t or aren’t a Trekkie, this command was used as a replacement for the original’s Capt. Kirk saying, “Take us forward, Mr. Sulu!” to indicate the starship should move on in its exploration path. It always left us wanting more.)

This is, of course, what every business owner hopes for with each marketing message posted in the public’s sphere. We are hoping for the captive audience. We want everyone on the edge of their seats thinking, “Please, tell us more!”

It’s a tall order but not insurmountable to achieve.

It’s All About Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!

We’ve already established in Part Two of this series on the Marketing Equation, Attention! Please, that it’s essential to garner your audience’s attention—despite the plethora of messages bombarding each of us daily, all demanding attention.

So now that you have their attention, you’ve got to keep it. This means you have to engage their interest with something utterly fascinating. (I know, I can hear the objector voice now, “But I sell regular old stuff! How on earth can I make that fascinating?”) First and foremost, if you what you sell doesn’t make you utterly excited—if you don’t find it fascinating—how on earth can you possibly sell your lack of interest to someone else? (So that is another newsletter topic.)

For now, let’s look at what makes and keeps people engaged. Are you curious?

Yes, that’s exactly the point. People are naturally curious creatures.

And what are they most curious about?

Themselves! Things that makes their lives easier, better, happier, exciting and joyful. Since there are many things that make many folks happier, and many things that make life easier, it’s important to get very specific in what you can do for them quickly. A simple statement of “Make Your Life Easier” isn’t going to cut it. (We know that already.)

You’ve got to be very specific about HOW you will make your audience members’ lives easier: “Make Your Life Easier by Getting All the Compliments You Can Imagine!

Aha! Now we’re connecting the dots! Life will be easier because everyone will fawn all over us. Hmmmmmmmm. Now how is that accomplished?

See? You’ve got to keep drawing them in. Each statement you make has to make your prospect want to learn more about your offering because of what it will magically do to improve her life.

Make The Story About Them!

What if you’re not selling weight loss programs that will result in all the males (or females) in town complimenting you on your great new physique?

It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling. The key is talking about them—your prospective customers. And even better, talk to one customer – singular. Then it is all about the one reader—not they mysterious ‘they.’

The J. Peterman Method of Storytelling

Have you ever read a J. Peterman catalog? Here’s an excerpt about a dress:

“Rita Hayworth wore it. Coeds and secretaries wore it. Your mother wore it. Women looked wonderful in it…Still do. And always will….Unless the female form undergoes some kind of radical transformation…..”

The copy in this catalog paints a detailed picture, written just for you about the dress you’ll love. Every word and every sentence is crafted to draw you in and build a story about how you’ll feel wearing this dress. How could you help but not buy this dress?

Not only does this writing masterfully craft an exquisite ambience around the product, it also creatively conveys tangible benefits: “Women looked wonderful in it.” So, of course, you will too.

Tell her the specific benefits of your product or service. “Stuff” we don’t need. But gobblesnyking radiance delivered by a whoozit primer saving her boatloads of time and money is something she can sink her teeth into – and relate to!

Use White Space to Focus the Eye Where To Go

Remember how you feel when you enter a store packed floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall with stuff: It all becomes goo! There’s no place to rest your eye because everything runs together. You probably couldn’t spot a $100 bill in front of you with so much junk packed in!

Now what about an art gallery? Ever wonder why they only put one small piece of artwork on a very blank, white wall? Focus! There’s absolutely nothing near the artwork that’s competing for your attention.

When you provide white space around not only your visual images, but also around your copy, you give it more importance. It says, “Look here!” to the only item on the wall. The viewer or reader cannot be distracted, wondering, “Should I look here or should I look there?” when there’s only one place to look.

Four Steps to Being the Most Engaging

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a talented copy writer. You know the benefits of your own products or services better than anyone on the planet. Just hunker down on the sofa with a pad of paper and begin hammering out these steps to become the most engaging storyteller ever. (You’ll be painting those J. Peterman-style copy writing pictures in no time!)

1.  List all the features of your product or service. Don’t worry about which one is the most important in priority. And don’t try to rank them. That’s for later. Just get them all out.
2.  Address each feature as if you were on the debating team getting handed the instructions to play the side you don’t like. Play the Devil’s Advocate. Put the shoe on the other foot. Ask: “Why is this feature included in the product (or service)?” If necessary, talk this through out loud. Record the answers. Brainstorm with your team.

Here are a few ideas to get your gray cells churning with ideas:

  • What pressing problem do you solve?
  • What freedom do you allow?
  • What aching pain do you remove?
  • What value do you add?
  • What connection do you make?
  • What pleasure do you create?

The Why? is absolutely crucial to understanding the importance of the feature so you’ll know where to rank it in priority for your customers. The more problems your feature solves; the more value it adds; the more importance it will take on to your prospect!
3.  Now that you know the Why of its importance you need to connect the dots to your prospect’s desire. If your widget, doohickey saves her boatloads of time, that’s just peachy. But what does it mean to her if she saves time?

It means she has more time to play with her kids. It means she has more time for the vacation she was planning with her honey. It means she has time to plan that big project that was going to bring in half a million dollars to her company. (It should be noted here that if you’re saying to yourself, “How should I know if she’s got her eye on a vacation,” or “How do I know if she’s got kids,” then you need to go back to study your customers’ demographics to gain a better understanding of who she is. The better you understand your customers daily problems and needs, the better you can solve them!)
4.  Once you’ve connected the Why? to your prospect’s desire, wrap it all up in an easy-to-digest package that hones in on her emotional drive. Here’s a long version of this wrap up:
Imagine yourself reclining on the chaise with your hand cupped over your eyes to cut down on the glare. A light, warm breeze picks up some strays hairs that blow in front of your sunglasses. You can feel the steep angle of the sun beating down on your skin, relentless in its stinging heat. But you can relax, knowing our SPF 60 sun block lotion completely blocks harmful UVA rays, preserving your youthful skin no matter the sun’s intensity. You’re reminded of your girlfriends’ comments, “How do you look so young, Dierdre?” and “What do you use on your skin? You look 20 years younger than the rest of us!” And you chuckle to yourself thinking how easy it was to protect your skin all these years….

Of course, not every application of the Marketing Equation gives you the physical space for all this copy. Nike’s managed to drill it all down into three little words: Just Do It!

Is that engaging?

Yup! So now that you’ve got your prospect hooked, on the edge of her seat waiting to hear more, what do you do with all those nifty features and benefits you worked out?

That is for the next post: Once hooked, you can Educate your prospect about all those terrific benefits you’ve got lined up for her. Just remember: She won’t be interested in all those great benefits until you’ve engaged her. So solve that problem first before laying out all the magical solutions you offer to her problem.

Tell me your ideas on engagement or your questions by commenting below.